SHIJIAZHUANG (Hebei) • A farm in China is taking the idea of free-range chicken seriously - each fowl wears an electronic tracker to count the exact number of steps it takes.
"We don't sell them until they have taken over one million steps, roughly 160 days," said chicken farm manager He Xiaofei.
The farm is located in China's northern Hebei province, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Walking about tightens the chicken's muscles and makes the meat tastier, the farm said. The farm has some 10,000 chickens and they are fed only natural food.
The farm in Wuyi county is a poverty alleviation project supported by the local government and shopping site JD.com.
Wuyi is one of the poorest counties in China with most of the farmland barren and alkaline. More than 60 per cent of the poor residents are elderly, sick or unable to support themselves, said Xinhua.
With small interest-free loans provided by JD.com, villagers are able to rear some chickens and get a dividend when they are sold. Some also have part-time jobs on the farm. The government pays for insurance for the fowl, guaranteeing the incomes of the farmers.
Mr Li Xisheng, 76, borrowed 4,500 yuan (S$950) to get 100 chickens last year. When they were ready for market, JD.com paid him 10,000 yuan. After deducting the loan repayment and farm management fees, Mr Li earned 3,000 yuan.
"The chickens have changed my life," Mr Li said, adding that he has just bought an electric tricycle.
The ready-to-cook chickens sold well online even though they cost 168 yuan to 188 yuan, three or four times the usual price. Buyers have left more than 14,000 comments on JD.com, most in awe of the taste, Xinhua reported.